Surveillance in Personal Injury Cases

Will The Insurance Company Have Someone Watch Me With A Camera?

The short answer is probably, yes.  The only way to know for sure whether an insurance company has conducted surveillance on you is when they produce it after your deposition in your lawsuit.  Some sources claim that insurance companies are conducting surveillance on 90% or more of people who make insurance claims in an attempt to discovery fraud.  The majority of these claims are legitimate and should not even be on the radar screen for fraud.

Insurance Companies Think Of Fraud On Every Claim

If you know how an insurance company works, then you aren’t surprised that insurance companies conduct widespread surveillance on people making claims.  Many employees at insurance companies have been trained to see every case as potentially fraudulent and they treat most claims as such.  Instead of innocent until proven guilty it is guilty until your claim is proven legitimate.

While I can’t fault an insurance company for wanting to root out fraudulent claims, eyeing every claim as potentially fraudulent is extreme.  Therefore, the chances of being under surveillance on your claim are high and you should be aware that you could be being watched everywhere.

The game for the insurance companies is to collect video surveillance on your before your deposition and then take your deposition having the benefit of watching you on film.

If you say something at your deposition that is inconsistent with the video surveillance, then your claim will fall under even greater scrutiny and the video may be disclosed in an attempt to embarrass you or try to get your case dismissed.

Common Places Where Surveillance Takes Place

Over the years, I have had many clients become the subject of video surveillance.  They watch people while they are at their homes, in their cars, at the gas station, the grocery store, and at the gym.  This is a true story.

I once represented a guy who suffered a fracture to his knee that required metal hardware to repair after an accident.  He followed all of his doctor’s recommendations and did everything that he could to strengthen himself.  Two years after his injury, the insurance company’s investigator went into the gym with a pen-sized hidden camera on his shirt to get video surveillance on this guy lifting weights at the gym.

This video had many of the gym’s other patrons visible and they had no idea that they were being watched.  The video even focused in on the rear end of a lady working out at the gym for a few minutes.  I know, that is creepy.  In any event, you should keep in mind that the plaintiff’s doctor recommended strength training and that the injured guy was using the help of a personal trainer for safety while at the gym.

The insurance company viewed this claim as fraudulent and, when the case went to a jury trial, the defense played the video of him lifting weights at the gym.  The jury must not have been impressed because they returned a verdict for almost $200,000.  On the other hand, we never got to ask the jurors how they felt about the surveillance.  Perhaps the verdict might have been $500,000 for a broken knee with hardware.

Unfortunately, we will never know.  However, what we do know is that insurance companies are doing this because they believe that it works.

The Insurance Company Will Never Show Its Cards First

In another case that I had against a major retailer, I represented an elderly gentleman who fell at the store.  He claimed that he fell on sand or dirt on the floor.  The retailer denied his claim saying that they were not responsible for the incident after receiving a letter with medical records attached.  The retailer did not detail why they denied the claim.

Naturally, the next move for a plaintiff’s attorney is to file a lawsuit.  After all, I believed my client when he said that sand or dirt on the floor caused him to lose his balance and fall.  Further, this was a retailer that has cameras everywhere in their stores, so the incident was most likely caught on camera and, once we got the video, we would hopefully be able to see what caused him to fall.  Thereafter, the retailer answered the lawsuit by denying responsibility for the incident and conducted discovery before turning over a video.

After I saw the video, it became readily apparent that my client’s recollection of the incident was clearly not what was shown on the video.  The video checked out as consistent with the date and time of the incident.  Therefore, this was the incident and there was no doubt about it.  I then chose to dismiss the case because it was just the right thing to do.

However, if the retailer had given us the surveillance video before a lawsuit was filed, then we never would have filed the lawsuit.  I suspect that the reason behind this is the strategic position that every insurance company takes on claims-that is they hold onto their evidence (even if it kills your case) until after they have had an opportunity to question you about the incident.

You should know that the insurance company will almost never show its cards first.

Here’s What Happens If You Stretch The Truth

When bringing an insurance claim, you should be honest, very honest.  A jury will not believe you unless you are honest.  If you stretch the truth, the insurance company will deny your claim and may file a motion to dismiss your case for fraud upon the court.  The case law says that a “fraud upon the court” requires that the plaintiff “sentiently set in motion” (knowingly or purposefully) a scheme to mislead the defense with false or misleading testimony.

It is not unusual to see a motion to dismiss for fraud upon the court filed after an insurance company has taken someone’s deposition and they the claimant on video saying that they can’t do the very thing that they are doing on video the week before the deposition.  The defense will file their motion with the deposition transcript and the video for the judge to see.

Contact An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney For Help With Your Case

If you have a personal injury claim, you should not be afraid of what the insurance company will do.  Instead, you should hire the best personal injury attorney you can find to help you bring your claim.  We help clients with personal injury and cases in Polk County including Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow, and Haines City, Florida.

January 15, 2017